That Red Dress

This story was inspired by a picture prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth.  The dress reminded me of the sort of pencil skirts they wore in the 1950s… so my mind went to this universe.  Felicja and Ilya are such a fun couple…

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Ilya looked up as his wife stepped into the room.  Her sandals clicked on the tiles as she moved across the room.  He whistled at her between his teeth and grinned when she stopped to frown at him.

“That’s a look I could never pull off,” he said, shaking his head.

Felicja smirked and crossed her arms over her chest.  “I might let you try… later,” she said, arching her brows.

Henryk looked between his parents and then shook his head.  “There is just no safe place to go with that,” he said, glancing over at his sister.

Zofia chuckled.  “No,” she agreed, “there really isn’t.”

Ilya rolled his eyes and reached out to ruffle his hand through Henryk’s hair.  “Can’t I compliment your mother on her dress?”

“Sure, you can,” Henryk said, shaking his locks back into their proper position.  “Just… you know, we don’t need to know about what happens behind the closed bedroom door.”

“We know enough, actually.  We can do without the details,” Zofia clarified.  She bounced to her feet and beckoned to her brother.  “On that note… we’re off to school.”

“You kids behave,” Henryk told them, as they grabbed their jackets and schoolbags and hurried out the door.

Felicja leaned back on the kitchen counter and smiled.  “The kids are off to school,” she said, arching her brows.

Laughing, Ilya leaned up to kiss her lightly on the mouth.  Rubbing a finger against her cheek, he said, “Tempting though that sounds… we need to be off to work.”

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Sleep for the Winter

The photo prompt I used for this story (from NaNoWriMo’s DreamWidth) was a bit of a challenge.  However, I like the interplay between Zofia and Henryk.

The Dogs Are Ready for Winter

Henryk frowned at the pink and purple hat.  Then, he looked over at the gray and blue hat that his sister was just finishing.  “Why do they have holes in them?” he said, putting his fingers into the hole that was just above one earflap.  “Did you mess it up?”

“No,” she said, frowning.  She tied off the braid that came down from the earflap of the hat she’d just finished and took the other hat from her brother.  “The holes are for their ears, silly!”

For a moment, Henryk was just staring.  “Whose ears?” he said.  As she flounced – that was the only way to describe the movement – out of the room, he fell into step behind her.  “Zosia, who are the hats for?”

She smiled and then set the hats on the side table, while she pulled on her coat and mittens.  Then, she hurried outside.  Henryk rolled his eyes and shrugged into his own coat.  He was just stepping out onto the porch when his sister reached the neighbor’s yard.

“Zofia,” he said, his voice strained.  “That’s not… what are you doing?”

Ignoring him, Zofia stepped up to the smaller of the neighbor’s golden retriever dogs.  She settled the pink and purple hat on the dog’s head, carefully pulling the dog’s ears through the holes above the earflaps.  She gave the larger dog the blue and gray hat.

“There,” she said, as she stepped back to admire her handiwork.  “Now, these dogs are ready for winter!”

Henryk sighed.  The larger dog looked confused.  His smaller companion seemed to be glaring.  As Zofia turned around and headed inside, he shook his head.  Looking at the dogs, he said, “Should I tell her that the earflaps are rather pointless, seeing as they’re meant to keep your ears warm and… that’s not going to work if your ears come out above them?”

The smaller dog barked and shook his head, knocking the hat askew.  His larger companion snatched the hat off his head and ran.  Barking again, the smaller dog took off after her, as if he actually wanted to wear a pink and purple hat.

Sighing, Henryk headed back into the house.  “It’s probably a really good thing that the ground squirrels hibernate,” he murmured.  “She’d be making sweaters for them otherwise.”

“Is Zofia having fun with her crochet?” Mama asked, not looking up from her knitting.

Henryk grimaced.  “You’ve created a monster,” he said, nodding.

Sunshine Daydreams

I had a lot of fun with this prompt.  Just imagining the situation my character finds himself in was fun.  At the same time, I could totally see it happening.

Prompt: Sparkle

“Uncle?”

Marian looked up from his newspaper and hid a smile.  Camelia was wearing one of her party dresses.  It made sense.  After all, she was having a party.  However, it still caught him a bit off guard.  “Yes, Camelia,” he said, his voice soft.

When she hesitated, he folded the newspaper and set it aside.  “Is there something wrong?” he asked.  He glanced at the clock.  Her friends would probably be arriving in about thirty minutes.  He frowned at her.  “You’re not worried because they’re not here yet, are you?”

“No,” she said, flushing.  She gave him a weak smile.  “It’s early yet, but… I wondered if you might… like to join us.”

For a moment, Marian just stared at her.  The last couple months hadn’t been easy for either of them.  Marian knew that he wasn’t the ideal father figure.  He could be scary at times, especially to a little girl.  He also tended to be horribly overprotective.

He was trained to protect people.  That didn’t always mean that whoever he had been assigned to protect got to do what they wanted.  In fact, it was often quite the opposite.  When his niece wanted to do things, he treated her the way he did people he had protected in the past.  He assessed the situation and, too often deemed it too dangerous.

It had led to arguments.  Why couldn’t she go to the soda fountain with her friends?  Why did she need to stay close by him when they were in public?  Worse, too often, he couldn’t find a reason beyond, “because I said so”.

So, when Camelia asked him if she could have the other girls in her class over for a tea party, he couldn’t say no.  She would be in their backyard.  He could watch her from the kitchen window.  What could be safer?

This, however, was something he hadn’t anticipated.  He was torn from his reverie when Camelia flushed and shook her head.  “You don’t have to,” she said, a bit too quickly.  “I just figured that – that it…”

“I’d love to come,” he said, smiling.  Her eyes widened and, for the first time in quite a while, she smiled at him.  He gave a nervous chuckle and stood.  “Let me get changed,” he said.

By the time her friends were arriving, he was ready to join them.  He couldn’t help but chuckle at the girls – none of them older than twelve – arriving at his home dressed in their Sunday best, which hats and gloves and jewelry.  “They look so grown up,” he murmured at Gilbert.

Chuckling softly, Gilbert nodded.  He waved at Gretchen and said, “Have fun, sweetie.”  As she nodded and scampered out to the garden with Camelia, he turned to Marian.  “What are you going to do?”

“Camelia invited me to join them,” he said, shrugging.

Gilbert grinned and nodded.  “Have fun with that,” he said.  “I’m taking the boys out for ice cream, in the meantime.”

Felicja arrived at that moment with Zofia, also dressed in a lovely party dress.  “Henryk’s looking forward to that nearly as much as she’s been looking forward to their tea party,” she said.  Giving Marian a playful wink, she said, “Have fun, Marian.”

Marian nodded and offered Zofia his arm.  “The other girls are in the garden,” he said.  When she blushed, he added, “I’ll show you the way.”

“All right,” she said, taking his arm.  She waved absently at her mother as she and Gilbert left with the boys.

Outside, Marian was confronted with the reality of attending a tea party with four pre-teen girls.  They had their dolls in their laps.  Their gowns and jewelry seemed to twinkle in the sunlit garden.  There were sugar sprinkles on their cupcakes.  Even the teapot seemed to shine.  He’d never seen anything so sparkly in his life, but there was no escaping now.

He straightened and then poured tea for each of the girls.  Then, he took a seat between Camelia and Milda.  He was uncertain at first.  However, soon, he was chatting with the girls and, occasionally, their dolls as if he were at any afternoon tea.

When the time came for the girls to leave, he saw them out with Camelia by his side.  Then, he turned to her and smiled.  “Did you have a good time?” he asked, his voice soft.

Camelia nodded.  “Next weekend, can we do it again at Zofia’s house?” she asked.

“I don’t see why not,” Marian said, nodding.

Laughing, Camelia hugged him.  Then, she scampered off to change into her play clothes.  As she reached the upper landing, she said, “And, of course, you’ll come too.  It won’t be the same without you.”

“Of course?” Marian said, blinking.  He was certain, somehow, that he would be going above and beyond the call to attend another tea party.  After all, none of the other parents had stayed for this one.  He heaved a sigh and shook his head.  He knew that he’d been trapped, now.  He’d be attending tea parties with Camelia for the rest of the season.  “God, save me from little girls.”

Flights of Fancy

This is a little scene depicting Ilya spending time with his children.  He didn’t meet them until they were eleven years old.  It was inspired by a photo prompt from NaNoWriYe’s DreamWidth.

I tried to do a little research on kite flying when I was writing it.  My only experience with actually flying a kite didn’t end well.

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“I’m no good at this,” Henryk said, as he followed his sister and Ilya out to the large open field. Ilya frowned slightly and he shrugged. “Mama took us to fly them a few times, but… all mine did was crash.”

“I’ll see if we can’t get your kite flying,” Ilya said, his voice soft. He glanced over at Henryk. “If you find, after giving it a real try, that you aren’t having fun, we’ll just go and get ice cream.”

Henryk frowned at him and then sighed. “All right,” he said, finally. However, he couldn’t seem to muster any enthusiasm. He didn’t know how to get the kite into the air. No matter how steady the wind was – even when people all around him were flying kites, his always stayed stubbornly grounded.

When they reached the field, a few other people were already there with their parents. Some people were having picnics. Others were playing catch. A few were holding the ends of long lines, as their kites soared high overhead.

“I’ll help you first, Henryk,” Ilya said, his voice soft. Henryk had noticed that he always spoke softly. Then, he looked at Zofia and smiled. “Once we’ve got Henryk started, I’ll help you.”

“All right, Papa,” Zofia said.

Ilya gave her a smile and ruffled her hair. Then, he took Henryk’s kite. “You hold the line, with the wind blowing onto your back,” he said. As he marched out into the field, Henryk scowled. This wasn’t how he’d ever launched a kite. Weren’t you supposed to run with it?

As Ilya turned to face him, he said, “Take the slack off the line, Henryk. Then, draw it in as I release it and it should climb.”

Henryk nodded. He did as Ilya said. As soon as the man raised the kite and Henryk saw him release it, he began winding the line in. His eyes widened as the kite slowly rose higher and higher. “It’s flying,” he breathed.

“Do me, do me,” Zofia said, bouncing up and down excitedly.

Ilya ran to them and smiled at Henryk. “Keep a close eye on it. If it starts to tug too much walk forward a bit. Don’t let it get too high,” he said.

Henryk nodded, his eyes going back towards the kite. Beside him, Zofia was laughing as Ilya helped her get her kite airborne as well. A moment later, Ilya had returned to their sides. He talked them through how to get the kites to do loops and twirls in the air without getting tangled or crashing.

Finally, Ilya said, “Is that the time?” He sighed.   “Let’s get them down,” he said. He caught Henryk’s line and said, “Hold it still and I’ll walk your kite down.”

“Yes, sir,” Henryk said, blinking. He watched, in amazement, as Ilya walked down the line, slowly drawing the kite towards the ground. As he reached the end of the line, where the kite was, he plucked it out of the air and turned to face Henryk. He motioned with his hand in a circular motion.

Nodding, Henryk began winding the kite’s string up once again. When he was finished, Ilya repeated the action with Zofia’s kite. Only when both of them were holding their kites, did Henryk notice that there were tears in Ilya’s eyes. “Why are you crying?” he said.

Ilya shook his head. “It’s foolish of me,” he said. “I just… I was remembering my father teaching me how to fly a kite, when I was just the age you are.” He shrugged. “Never mind,” he said. “Let’s get some ice cream.”

“Thanks, Papa,” Zofia said, catching his hand in hers.

Henryk hesitated for a moment, before taking Ilya’s other hand. “I’m not sure how long it’ll be before I’m comfortable calling you… Papa,” he said. Then, he smiled faintly. “But I think you’re a good guy. Thanks for teaching us how to fly the kites.”

“You are very welcome, Henryk,” Ilya said, his voice soft.

A Knitter’s Nightmare

Today, I got to write a story using the very first prompt I ever saw from the NaNoWriYe DreamWidth.  At the time, I knew the story was going to be about Felicja in some way.  I had a lot of fun with it.  This is something that anyone who has knitted can relate to…

Prompt: Tinkering

It was a nice, quiet night.  Felicja was sitting by the fire in a rocking chair, her latest project in her lap.  Henryk was sitting on the floor, reading a book.  Not far away, Zofia was brushing her doll’s hair as she spoke softly to it.  Ilya watched his family with a bemused expression on his face.  He had dreamed of nights like this one when he was younger, before he’d ever joined the Agency or heard of Ivan Petrov.

The tranquility was broken by a grumbled curse.  “Felicja?” he said, blinking at his wife.  “Is something wrong, my love?”

“I don’t have the right number of stitches,” she said.  Her tone was one of annoyance.  “It’s not going to come out right and I didn’t put in a lifeline at the end of the last repeat.”  She was tracking back now, reading her work as she searched for her mistake.

She cursed again and Ilya suppressed the urge to smile.  “You found your mistake?” he said.

“Ten rows back,” she said.  Then, she began the work of carefully knitting back to the error.  Shaking her head, she said, “This – this is why they call me ‘Tinker’!”

“Does that mean that you’re tinkering?” Henryk asked, as he looked at his mother over the top of his book.

Ilya stifled a laugh and turned back to his newspaper.  He had everything in his life that he’d ever hoped for.  His wife, he knew, felt like she was in the middle of a nightmare.  However, once she’d gotten back to where she was now and had the correct number of stitches, she’d be just as happy as he was.

Dreamers – part 11

I’m having so much fun with the prompts from NaNoWriYe’s DreamWidth.  My story has take another unexpected turn.  I know this thing with Marian’s brother is going to come up again.

(Prompt: Alone)

Marion frowned slightly as he strode into the banquet hall. Most of the other agents were married, or at least were dating. The young lady on his arm was not any sort of paramour for him.

“A bit young, isn’t she?” someone said.

Resisting the urge to roll his eyes, Marian turned to glare at the speaker. “Walker,” he said. Waving at Camelia, he added, “This is my niece, if you must know.” His brow twitched as he struggled to school his features. “Her father, my brother, passed away… suddenly. You might recall.”

“He’s being decorated posthumously,” Reader said, her voice soft. She gave Camelia a weak smile. “I’m sorry for your loss, Miss Albescu. Your father was a great man.”

Camelia nodded slightly, but she didn’t say anything. Marian gave Reader a wan smile. “Thank you,” he said, his voice soft. He spotted Gilbert and then sighed as he noticed that the Schneider children were there too.

“Come on, Camelia,” he said, his tone gentle. He guided her towards Gilbert and Madeline and said, “I want you to meet some friends of mine.”

“Yes, Uncle,” she said, her voice faint.

It broke Marian’s heart to see her this way. He was hoping that seeing other children might help raise her spirits a bit. Her mother had died when she was very young. Now, Nicholai was gone too and she was alone.

“Hey, Gilbert,” Marian said, his tone full of forced cheer.

Gilbert whirled away from Singer and Tinker and frowned at him. “Marian, hey,” he said. He glanced at Madeline and tilted his head slightly to one side as he looked back at Marian. “Are you all right?”

Marian gave a weak laugh. “Peachy,” he said, shrugging. He heaved a sigh and then arched an eyebrow. “You hear of that transport accident?”

When Gilbert’s brows furrowed, Marian knew that he hadn’t heard anything of it. The science agent turned to his wife. “Maddie?”

“It happened about a week ago,” she said, her voice soft. “You had just come back from the Mushroom and you’ve been in your laboratory since you got back.”

Singer nodded. “I heard about it,” he said, his voice soft. His brows furrowed. “They were saying it might have been pilot error… that he got disoriented in the fog?”

“Papa didn’t crash the plane,” Camelia said, her voice cracking. She hiccupped and then buried her face in Marian’s chest, sobbing.

Marian blinked and then hugged her, a bit awkwardly. “They… My brother was the pilot,” he said, shrugging. He bit his lip and squeezed his eyes closed against the tears that were suddenly threatening.

To his surprise, Tinker drew Camelia into an embrace. “It’s all right, sweetie,” she said, her tone soothing. “You’re allowed to cry about things like this.” Then, she frowned at Marian. “You’re holding up all right?”

“Bereavement leave,” he said, shrugging. He pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped at his eyes. Then, he looked at Singer. The other agent was looking chagrined now and he shook his head. “Don’t worry about it, Singer,” he said. “That’s what the preliminary findings were pointing at.”

“They have new data, then?” Gilbert said, blinking.

Marian nodded. “They just finished analyzing the in-flight voice recorder,” he said. “It was sabotage. Nicholai said… that the controls weren’t responding properly. He could steer, but he couldn’t slow down. He fought to keep the transport in the air as long as he did… so that they crashed into an unpopulated area.”

“That’s why you’re here, then,” Madeline said. When Marian nodded, she gave him a weak smile. Then, she waved towards her children and Felicja’s twins. They were crowding around Camelia, chatting and exchanging hugs.

“They know each other?” Marian said, blinking.

Nodding, Madeline said, “Nicholai sent her to Camp Whip-poor-will for the summer?” When he nodded, she shrugged. “We did too.”

Marian heaved a sigh. “Well… hopefully, it’ll do her some good, seeing some familiar faces,” he murmured. He shook his head and then gave Gilbert a weak smile. “How’s it going with your investigation? The… dreamers?”

“We were going to try to contact them tonight,” Gilbert said, glancing at Madeline quickly. When she nodded, he heaved a sigh of relief. Then, he frowned at Marian. “Did you want to help? I know… you used to do séances when we were at school.”

“For All Hallow’s Eve,” Marian said, flushing. “That was… just for fun. This would be serious.” Then, he looked at Madeline and shrugged. “I’ll help, if you think I’ll do any good.”

“I’d be more comfortable with five people participating,” Madeline said, her voice soft. Her brows furrowed and she looked at Gilbert. “Four isn’t a good number.”

“There you go then,” Gilbert said, shrugging.

Singer nodded. “Daina can keep an eye on the kids,” he said, glancing toward the group, which now included his daughter as well.

I was born at night…

I’m having so much fun with the prompts from NaNoWriYe’s DreamWidth.  This is another picture prompt.

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Zofia looked over her brother’s shoulder and frowned at what he was drawing. “What’s that?” she asked, pointing at the image. It was a bird with a long, skinny beak that was hovering over water.

“Hummingbird,” he said, without looking up from the image. After a moment, he added, “They’re small and they fly very quickly. The live on nectar.”

“Like bees?” Zofia said. Her brother made a sound of affirmation. Nodding, Zofia settled down across from him. She set her elbows on the table and then rested her chin on her hands. Her brother colored the image and chuckled softly as he wrote a little message next to the bird. “Who’s Papaya?”

“What?” Henryk said, as he covered the words with his hands. “No one. It’s just a picture and – and Papaya isn’t anyone.”

“Brother, we were born at night,” Zofia said. Locking eyes with him, she added, “But it wasn’t last night. I can read and I’m a fool.”

Flushing, Henryk heaved a sigh. “It’s a nickname,” he said, shrugging. Then, he focused back on his work and said, “No one you know.”

“Camelia?” Zofia said. He had no reaction, so she tried another name. She listed every girl she knew, both from school and from summer camp. Then, she started listing the boys. Henryk didn’t react to any of the names. He didn’t so much as flinch.

Then, she said, “Johannes?”

“Leave me alone, Zosia,” Henryk said, his voice cracking.

“Birds in their nest agree,” Mama called from the other room.

Zofia stifled a laugh and bounced to her feet. “Sorry, Henryk,” she said, as she headed off towards her room. “I’ll leave you alone now, so you can finish your birthday picture for… Papaya.”

Henryk made a sound that might have been a stifled growl. “It’s not Johannes,” he said, as she headed for the doorway.

Shaking her head, Zofia paused. She turned and looked at her brother. “I wonder… do you give all your friends fruit nicknames.”

“Zosia,” Henryk said, his tone strident, but soft. Neither of them wanted their mother to come into the room and scold them for arguing.

I Dreamed a Dream

Here is another story that I wrote using the NaNoWriYe DreamWidth.  Felicja is thinking about her relationship with her children.  This is set right before my recent Camp NaNo

Prompt: Too Much

Felicja waved until the train was long out of sight. A part of her was angry. It wasn’t fair that she had to send her children away like this. Every time the Agency called her, she had to drop everything to answer that call. However, Henryk and Zofia were the most important thing in her life. By rights, they should come first.

She heaved a sigh as she turned away and headed off to meet Timothy. She knew exactly what had put her in this position: their father. They’d met when she was young – far too young to understand the implications of what was happening between them. At the time, she never would have imagined having children with him.

Things had progressed, with him leading the way. She felt that it must have been love, so she’d given him what he wanted. Then, when she’d learned that she was pregnant, he left her. Felicja shook her head and forcibly pushed the tender affection she could feel rising for the man away. He’d left her and his children and Felicja had been forced to find a way to support a small family alone.

It had almost been too much. There were times when she’d considered giving up. The last time she’d been called up on a mission, she’d sent the children away on a holiday. She’d been sorely tempted to leave them, the way their father had. Then, the guilt had been too much. She couldn’t be that person. Henryk and Zofia needed her.

Sighing, Felicja realized that she needed them too. Zofia brought light into her world. She was so cheerful, so irrepressible that Felicja felt like she could do anything. Henryk was so smart that she knew, with the right chances, he could be anything he wanted. The idea that she had brought these two little people into the world filled her with joy. She needed them and they needed her.

“Hey,” a familiar voice called.

Felicja looked up and smiled. Wiping moisture from her eyes, she said, “Hey, Timmy. You ready to go?”

Nodding, Timothy waited while she got into the car. Then, he settled into the driver’s seat. “Are you all right?” he asked, as he turned the key in the ignition. His brows furrowed. “You look like you were crying.”

“Sometimes,” Felicja murmured, “this all gets to be a bit too much.” She didn’t know how Gilbert could have left his little ones for seven years. She was torn up by just leaving them for a few months.